Today's book of poetry - Blissful Times. Sandra Alland. Book Thug. Toronto, Ontario. 2007.
Usually I read poetry in my study, for me it is the most comfortable place on earth. The walls are covered with books of poems, art, music, poetry posters, the room vibrates with poetry.
For example, my good friend Stuart Ross (Canada's friend to the small presses and premiere Surrealist writer) gave me a painting by Bill Bissett (who once stayed in our guest room downstairs), it hangs on the wall above a sculpted breast by Toronto artist/Luthier Jeff Menzies and two small paintings by Dennis Tourbin (another friend, painter, and fine poet).
Stuart also gifted me a stunning photograph by Sandra Alland, it could be a landscape of sand dunes at dusk but it is a reclining nude in shadow and it is behind my desk looking down on everything I write.
With that in mind I cracked open Sandra Alland's 2007 Book Thug title Blissful Times. It seems Sandra Alland finds play blissful. This book is all about play. Like a gymnast who is good in every apparatus Alland jumps styles like skipping rope, without ever missing a beat. As a result Blissful Times is full of constant surprise.
'Better off banging your head on that
lamppost than wishing a big
injection of humanity into some ugly
She yelled this over a pint of ale,
ferociously fiddling with her
unkempt hair. licking those
lovely anarchist lips.
Times like that I lack all poetry
I stutter and blush, feel
my body go lascivious, my brain
exit stage left. Some politics are that
sexy. 'Hmmmm,' I said, tongue buzzing.
So after her place, I
emptied the recycling, brushed
my teeth, thought of England
in the way only a Scot can.
Then sleep and I sank into each other.
Loving her in my dream was easier,
unless you count the tentacles. But her
face lacked that pinched thing, her accent wasn't
so posh. When she spread her many legs,
she said, 'Love is the cure for colonialism.'
I laughed heartily, knowing
love had failed at ambitions far less lofty.
Before I woke up, she whispered, 'Auld lang syne.'
Alland uses all sorts of found texts as the starting points for the poems in Blissful Times - but then puts her considerable playful talents into reinterpreting the world.
There are concrete poems and entries with titles such as After Going Out 2 where we are given an internet address, in this case: www.blissfultimes.ca/aftergoingout.mp3
These are worth looking up and listening to. Alland entertains while she enlightens.
Alland uses text from Samuel Beckett, Di Brandt, Jorge Lara Rivera and many others - but these poems are clearly hers. Alland masters language with tricks and tickles and makes this collection amusing, full of play but never childish, never trite.
These poems are as surprising as the Alland photograph that hangs in my study. Picture perfect and pretty on first glance, something altogether different, more radiant, underneath.